The Next Buddha is Sangha

“It’s not the perfect, but the imperfect who have need of love.”
—Oscar Wilde

A common misapprehension about meditation is that its aim is to attain a peaceful uninterrupted state of bliss and luminosity.  When we meditate, especially in initial stages of practice, what we often experience are emotions that may feel unbearable, or even wrong.  Instead of bliss and light, we may encounter restlessness, aversion, low energy and difficult emotions.  These may arise with physical manifestations—tightened throat or heart, burning sensations, shallow breathing…. It may feel natural to want to constrain, suppress, stop these all too familiar marks of our fear, anxiety, yes, imperfection.

Discomfort and unpleasantness are part of the process.  Putting away idealizations about what is acceptable or unacceptable, recognizing and setting aside habitual reactions, we see the endless struggle with discomfort. Letting emotions be, we pay loving attention to them rather than pushing them away.  Loving attention to the breath, thoughts, emotions and stories shifts our relationship out of struggle.  This is the key moment in meditation—when we  simply pause, let go of reactivity and establish intimacy with what is true, even if scary.

Much simpler than trying to change it, we accept the constricted heart and hold it with kindness.  It is not necessarily that anxiety will disappear or uncomfortable images or thoughts won’t arise.  Our willingness to receive anxiety with kindness will gradually loosen its grip so that we can see it more clearly as the vulnerable in us that needs our love.  Meeting difficulty with curiosity and goodwill, we see clearly.  The love itself is transformational.

With metta,
Gina Sharpe
Guiding Teacher